I do not believe there is one person who has had an "easy" or "good" time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Actually, I take that back, Jeff Bezos exists, but for arguments sake let's forget about him. While I'm sure millions of people have it worse than I, I have found my senior year to include regular testing, contact tracing, restricted access to friends, and basically an opposite reality from anything I had always pictured.
When the pandemic really began for Americans in March, I was three months home from a semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, unknowingly experiencing a tremendous amount of culture shock. I was depressed, anxious, and regularly felt out of place. And then the world shut down, and my entire family contracted the CoronaVirus. For a bit there I could only focus on the things I'd lost rather than the things I still had to be grateful for. In my haze of self pity I lost sight of all those doing such incredible work around me, most of whom were working to make my life easier. Specifically, I failed to recognize my professors, especially the ones who were not very tech savvy, yet still did everything possible to maintain the most comfortable learning experience possible for their students.
Well, now, just a few months shy of a year later, with a ton of reflection time banked, I would like to take the time to honor those professors who made my life just a little bit easier in the chaos, and share the stories of other students who received the same support.
The first thing I did after contracting COVID-19 was notify my professors. At that time, hospitals were becoming overcrowded, ventilators were precious, and a plan of care for the virus was not yet recognized. At that time, people who got COVID-19 were more often not okay, and I was really really scared that even as a healthy young person, I too would not be okay. So, in the fear that I'd get really sick and start missing assignments I reached out to my professors to let them know what was going on. The CoronaVirus is scary, but failing a class because I was too sick to submit assignments was, to me, even scarier.
Dr. Cammarano, my political science professor at the time, was my guardian angel during all of this. When he found out that I was sick, he didn't ask what I could still do for him, but instead what he could do for me. I remember we scheduled a one-on-one zoom call, and while I was prepared to discuss my school work, he began our conversation by asking if my family and I were okay. He encouraged me to write about my experience and offered to help me distribute my story once I'd written it down – this September, when I finally worked up the courage to do so, he kept his word. I'm now in my second semester with Dr. Cammarano as my professor, and his generosity has not waivered. He regularly comes up with online events for his students to destress and have some fun, or express their concerns in open discussion. Also, he's offered, more times than I can count, to order a pizza for any student who's hungry, no questions asked.
Inspired by my own experience, I reached out to my fellow PC students to ask if anyone else had a professor who has gone above and beyond for their students during this time. The first student to reply insisted that I tell the story of her experience with Dr. Veliz-Moran. The student explained that in these politically tumultuous times, Dr. Veliz-Moran has always allowed for open discussion and expression of ideas. Also, she has taken the time to get to know each of her students individually and honor their achievements, consistently offering to assist them in any way she can. Amidst all the chaos, she even reviewed this students resume and helped them look for post-grad jobs.
Another student wrote in about psychology professor, Dr. Harmon-Vukic. The student explained that Dr. Harmon-Vukic has been incredibly understanding in regard to the mental health of her students. Her patience and compassion have not gone unnoticed.
A public speaking class taught online seems impossible, but one student explained that Professor Olsen has done everything possible to make sure his students get the experience they deserve. He devised ways for students to position their cameras so that they can mimic the speech-giving-experience more accurately. Additionally, he begins every class by asking his students if they're okay. The student explained that the regular check-ins mean a lot to her. His tentative nature in structuring the class has been extremely beneficial to his students and is much appreciated.
The story that specifically warms my heart though, is that of history professor, Dr. Smith. One of his students shared with me that without fail, Dr. Smith would begin every class by asking students to share the best part of their week for as long as they preferred. When quarantine first began, he would open the floor to his students, giving them an opportunity to vent, or share their concerns with the class. He often expressed his willingness to advocate for students, and did his best to serve as a mode of communication between students and their administration. He did not ask his students to elaborate on their hardships, but took them at their word when they asked for more help or time. His student was clear that she always loved his class because it made her feel seen, heard, and most importantly, considered.
While these were the few stories I was told, I can only imagine how many other students have their own experiences. When life got hard for all of us, these professors did everything in their power to not make our lives any harder. I speak for all of these students, and myself, in saying thank you, professors. Your kindness, generosity, and care have not gone unnoticed. We are so thankful for you.